Epic win for NYC’s Open Data Community! PLUTO is free!

Since the signing of New York City’s Open Data Law on March 7, 2012, open data and geo-spacial nurds have been wondering when the City’s extensive land use and geographic data at the tax lot level would be liberated. Today, New York City Department of City Planning liberated PLUTO and mapPLUTO.

New York City’s Open Data Law is very explicit about when everything should be on the City’s portal. At the one year milestone “public datasets that agencies make available on the internet shall be accessible through a single web portal.” When the March 7 anniversary passed and the community celebrated the one year anniversary, sadly PLUTO was missing.

Why is this one dataset so important?

MapPLUTO is a mashup of city data that, when plugged into mapping software, opens up a real-world version of Sim City. Tax lot characteristics and building outlines may not be the sexiest topics of conversation, but in New York City the digital information is (almost) invaluable. Real estate developers use MapPLUTO data to plot out their visions; urban planners to craft the environment those buildings sit in. – PLUTO out of orbit, The New York World

Before today, to imagine a new New York you would have to pay $1,500 ($300 per borough) for the first time and then again for every update after. Additionally, users were explicitly forbidden to put ANY portion of MapPLUTO on the internet. All of this, being an explicit contradiction to Local Law 11 of 2012.

On March 9, the community began active petitioning for PLUTO’s liberation. On April 2 2013, the NY World wrote a fantastic piece pointing out that PLUTO was missing. Then, Steven Romalewski quickly demanded a 10 year refund. Followed by the NYC Transparency Working Group picking up the phone and asking City Hall and members of the City Council “When will PLUTO be free?

Through the process, we had a few comical cosmical conversations, and fanciful ideas of protest filled some heads. Should we show up on the steps of City Hall dressed as planets and leave PLUTO out? Should we coordinate the use of NY’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and request to liberate the data on a daily basis? (By the way, this was a tactic used to bring the New York Municipal Transportation Agency to the table.)

Then in May, 596 Acres used FOIL to obtain a free copy, but the question still loomed…”When will PLUTO be freed?”

Then today at noon, an email appeared in my inbox titled “DOWNLOAD!” followed by a link to Department of City Planning’s website infamous MapPLUTO portal.

Many thanks to advocates inside and outside who worked tirelessly for years to liberate one of New York City’s most fundamental datasets. Many more thanks to the efforts of Department of City Planning, DoITT, and the Chief Analytics Officer’s office. THANK YOU!

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

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